Research Article

Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 219, Issue 2, pp 217-225

First online:

Temporal depression of the soleus H-reflex during passive stretch

  • Christopher T. RobertsonAffiliated withDepartment of Sport and Exercise Science, Jacksonville UniversityDepartment of Kinesiology & Program in Neural Science, Indiana University
  • , Koichi KitanoAffiliated withDepartment of Kinesiology, Indiana University
  • , David M. KocejaAffiliated withDepartment of Kinesiology & Program in Neural Science, Indiana University
  • , Zachary A. RileyAffiliated withDepartment of Kinesiology & Program in Neural Science, Indiana UniversityDepartment of Kinesiology, Indiana University–Purdue University Email author 

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Synaptic efficacy associated with muscle spindle feedback is regulated via depression at the Ia-motoneurone synapse. The inhibitory effects of repetitive Ia afferent discharge on target motoneurones of different sizes were investigated during a passive stretch of ankle extensors in humans. H-reflex recruitment curves were collected from the soleus muscle for two conditions in ten subjects. H-reflexes were elicited during passive stretch at latencies of 50, 100, 300, and 500 ms after a slow (20°/s) dorsiflexion about the right ankle (from 100 to 90°). Control H-reflexes were recorded at corresponding static (without movement) ankle angles of 99, 98, 94, and 90° of flexion. The slope of the H-reflex recruitment curves (Hslp) was then calculated for both conditions. H-reflex values were similar for the static and passive stretch conditions prior to 50–100 ms, not showing the early facilitation typical of increased muscle spindle discharge rates. However, the H-reflex was significantly depressed by 300 ms and persisted through 500 ms. Furthermore, less than 300 ms into the stretch, there was significantly greater H-reflex depression with a lower stimulus intensity (20 % Mmax) versus a higher stimulus intensity (Hmax), though the effects begin to converge at later latencies (>300 ms). This suggests there is a distinct two-stage temporal process in the depression observed in the Ia afferent pathway for all motoneurones during a passive stretch. Additionally, there is not a single mechanism responsible for the depression, but rather both heterosynaptic presynaptic inhibition and homosynaptic post-activation depression are independently influencing the Ia-motoneurone pathway temporally during movement.


H-reflex Stretch Post-activation depression Presynaptic inhibition